Carmel Valley: Dentists help ease ‘dental drama’ through sedation dentistry
By Karen Billing
Going to the dentist usually prompts a little bit of anxiety for most people, but for some people it is an absolute fear. Two local dentists have sought to ease that dental drama for more than 20 years through sedation dentistry at their San Diego office.
Dr. Douglas Decker of Carmel Valley and Dr. Terry McClanahan of Rancho Santa Fe are among the few in the city who specialize in sedation dentistry, often receiving referrals from specialists and other dentists.
Only about 1 percent of California dentists have a sedation license and only about 20 percent of those do it regularly, Decker said.
At their office, sedation is offered with no charge where most others would charge around $400 for the service.
In January they celebrated 20 years at their El Cajon Boulevard location and while they have done sedation dentistry for a number of years, they have really stressed it for the last six years.
“You’re just able to help people who haven’t been able to go to the dentist for sometimes 10 to 15 years because they’re just really afraid,” McClanahan said. “We’re able to get their teeth in good shape, make them comfortable about coming to the dentist.”
The pair went to dental school at UCLA together and have been partners for 28 years, working together at another office before purchasing their El Cajon Boulevard property 20 years ago and building their facility from the ground up.
“28 years and we’re still friends,” Decker said with a smile.
Throughout the years of treating patients, Decker has found that fears of dentists usually stems from bad experiences when they were younger. He had one patient whose dentist would jerk her head whenever she moved in the chair, which prompted her to stay away for 10 years.
“We had one patient who was so fearful that just coming into the office made her cry,” Decker said.
Hearing dental horror stories really reinforces the gentle, calming way that Decker and McClanahan treat their patients.
“I’ve never been into causing people discomfort,” McClanahan said. “When patients have a bad day, we have a bad day.”
The doctors often do first meetings and consultations in a private room as some people are uncomfortable in the dentist chair.
“We’ve had patients say that some dentists will berate them to letting their teeth go so long without treatment so not only are they afraid but they are embarrassed,” Decker said. “Here there’s no lectures, just the help you need.”
Sedation is offered on a couple of different levels. They do nitrous oxide where patients stay awake, but it takes a bit of the edge off. Patients are able to drive themselves home afterward.
The other method is oral conscious sedation, a short-acting valium that is taken orally.
“Sometimes patients are snoring away, other times they’re wide awake but they just don’t care,” Decker said. “It’s amnesiac so a lot of times patients don’t remember a thing.”
Oral sedation requires patients to take a pill before they leave home so patients need to have someone drop them off and pick them up after their appointment. The method is safe and highly trained staff monitor vital signs during the procedure.
Decker said sedation is a great option not only for people who are fearful but for people who may have busy schedules and don’t have time for a lot of appointments. Patients can be sedated to get all their work done in one sitting.
Decker said it’s also an option for people who are claustrophobic or for people who have sensitive gag reflexes.
While Decker and McClanahan are general dentists who perform all dental services for patients of all ages, sedation is only offered for patients 13 and older.
To learn more about San Diego Sedation Dentistry or to make an appointment, visit sdsedationdentist.com or call (619) 543-1588. The office is located at 2533 El Cajon Blvd. near Texas Street.
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